With June upon us, now is the time for Don Sweeney and the Bruins to step up the efforts to improve a roster that still has some significant holes.
Sure, the B’s were good enough to make the playoffs, and even have a handy alibi of injuries as to why things went wrong for them in the first round against the Senators. Still, Bruins management and scouting staff were quick to recognize following the season that they need to ice a better, deeper group as they look to make another step forward.
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“We have a lot of work to do as an organization, still. We want to become a deeper, more talented team from top to bottom,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney at his end-of-season press conference in April. “Taking one step forward, in my opinion, is not successful. It’s a good step, but we have work to do in a lot of areas that we want to continue to get better.”
A top-six left wing capable of scoring some goals, preferably with some size, is definitely a need alongside David Krejci. A top-four, left-shot defenseman suitable to potentially be paired with 19-year-old Charlie McAvoy is another big ticket item on Sweeney’s summer shopping list. Chances are the Bruins might just see what they have in Anders Bjork, Danton Heinen and Jake DeBrusk for the open winger spot when training camp opens. Perhaps being paired with established offensive performers David Krejci and David Pastrnak could open up some scoring space for one of those young forwards and mitigate the need to go searching for somebody such as Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog.
Let’s assume that a top-four, left-shot defenseman is the top priority outside the organization. Clearly, the re-signing of Pastrnak to a suitable second contract stands as the most important thing Sweeney will do between now and October. This should be the right offseason for Sweeney to get something done with Sami Vatanen, Matthew Dumba, Jonas Brodin and Tyson Barrie, to name just a few, potentially available on the trade market for the right price.
With Vatanen, Dumba and Barrie all right-hand shots with McAvoy and Brandon Carlo locked in as top-four, righty D-men for the foreseeable future in Boston, Brodin seems like a clear person of interest for the Black and Gold.
One hockey source indicated to CSNNE there should be attention paid to the ongoing trade discussions between the Bruins and Wild for a couple of reasons. Those talks first started leading up to this past season’s trade deadline. The 23-year-old Brodin Is a left-shot D-man with cost certainty signed for four more years at $4.166 million and has been a top-four defenseman for the Wild since breaking into the league as a teenager. The 6-foot-1, 194-pound Brodin is coming off a career-high 25 points, while also averaging a career-low 19:34 of ice time, and has settled in as a solid, two-way D-man who's never going to dazzle anybody with his workmanlike skill set.
Brodin can move the puck skillfully enough, he can defend and he can play in any situation, but he’s never going to light it up with a 50-point season and will battle through his share of injuries: He’s only once played more than 71 regular-season games in five NHL seasons.
That’s exactly the kind of solid, steady, young veteran the Bruins could use alongside a budding, special talent in McAvoy. Brodin would fit in with Boston’s salary cap structure as well. On the Minnesota side, there are indications around the hockey world the Wild want to get back into the first round after shipping their first rounder (No. 23 overall) to the Coyotes in exchange for Martin Hanzal at the trade deadline.
The Bruins still have their first-round pick at the 18th spot and Sweeney made no mystery about his willingness to discuss dealing that pick when talking to reporters at last weekend’s NHL prospect combine.
“It’s an effort to try and improve our hockey club,” said Sweeney to reporters in Buffalo last weekend. “We have had a number of selections the last couple of years and we feel that they’ll all materialize into very good players for the Boston Bruins and I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t explore what could improve our hockey club now in the shorter term.
“I owe it to our players and the organization to continue to do that. Whether or not it happens, I don’t know. Some people have looked at me sideways at times when holding three first-rounders [in 2015] and not being able to do something at that point in time. The right deal didn’t take place. I can’t say that it’s going to at this time as well, but it’s certainly an area I’ve looked at that if we can improve, then we would move it.”
The best way for the Wild to do that would be to dangle one of their defensemen while clearing off some cap space with big paydays coming this summer for Minnesota restricted free agents Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter. It will be interesting to see what a package centered on Boston’s first-round pick and restricted free agent Ryan Spooner could net for the Black and Gold as the B’s clearly would like to move the speedy, creative power-play specialist this summer. Part of the Bruins’ sell job to get center prospect Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson signed last spring was strong indications he’d be in the NHL this season. That would mean the writing is on the wall for Spooner, 25, a talented, inconsistent third-line center who might just need a change of scenery.
It’s no coincidence the Bruins have been one of the best PP teams in the NHL the past two seasons with Spooner working the half-wall on their top unit.
Sources have indicated Spooner’s name has been discussed leading up to this month’s Vegas expansion draft and that “the interest is out there” for a center who averaged 12 goals and 44 points the past two seasons. That doesn’t mean he’ll absolutely be moved prior to the expansion draft, but it would appear that Spooner is one of the pieces in play for the Black and Gold as fortify their roster for next season.
Sweeney is going to have to eventually execute a good hockey trade or two if he truly wants the Bruins to rise to a different level in the next couple of seasons and it sounds as if the pieces are starting to move to try and make that happen this summer.